Contingency in a Sacred Law

Legal and Ethical Norms in the Muslim Fiqh


This book focuses on the Hanafite school of fiqh which originated in the eight century and is, geographically, the most widespread and, numerically, the most important representative of Muslim normativeness. The fiqh consists of liturgical, ethical and legal norms derived from the Islamic revelation. The introduction outlines the main boundaries between fiqh and theology and follows the modern debate on the comparison between the fiqh and the secularized law of the modern Occident. The core of the book is dedicated to the way in which the fiqh, in the period between the 10th and the 12th centuries, adapted to changing circumstances of urban and agricultural life (chapters I and II), to the way in which it marked off legal from ethical norms (chapter III), religious from legal status (chapters IV to VI) and legal propositions from religious judgment (chapter VII). The forms in which change of norms was made acceptable is discussed in chapter VIII. The last chapter deals with an attempt of Shi'i scholars in the Islamic Republic of Iran to answer new problems in old forms.


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Biographical Note

Baber Johansen, Ph.D. (1965) in Islamic Studies, Habilitation (1972), Berlin, is Directeur d'Etudes at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes et Sciences Sociales in Paris for 'Structures normatives et histoire en Islam'. He has published extensively on the history of Islamic Law including The Islamic Law on Land Tax and Rent (London, Croom Helm, 1988) and (together with D.J. Stewart and A. Singer) Law and Society in Islam (Princeton, Markus Wiener Publishers, 1996).

Review Quote

' Baber Johansen is perhaps the most original scholar currently working in the field of classical Islamic…' Colin Imber, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 2001.